Pioneers of creativity and cinematic innovation, distributors A24 have brought some of the finest independent projects to the forefront of public view, with the company now ubiquitous with cinema’s most exciting arthouse releases. Inspired by the Italian A24 motorway company founder Daniel Katz was driving down on holiday, the iconic name has since become a desirable stamp of approval from a company that prides itself on funding “movies from a distinctive point of view”.
Their popularity grew to the extent that in 2016 they were able to not only distribute but also produce their very first project, in the Academy-Award winning Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins. In a contemporary industry that has seemingly forgotten the importance of low-budget filmmaking to innovate and question the fabric of cinema itself, where Disney may be the leader in the production of mainstream content, A24 are building an impressive library of truly challenging titles.
Our list of A24’s finest ten films was by no means an easy one to put together, omitting the likes of Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse, Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, Alex Garland’s Ex Machina and Lulu Wang’s The Farewell. It’s a testament to the prominence of cinema’s most exceptional production company.
The 10 best films released by A24:
10. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2017)
One of the most exciting working directors, the Greek Yorgos Lanthimos rose to prominence in the mid-2000s with 2009s provocative Dogtooth and Alps two years later. 2015 effort The Lobster would put him on the radar of cinephiles worldwide, though his follow up The Killing of a Sacred Deer felt like a more compelling tale.
This dark and twisted tragedy follows a surgeon who is held hostage by a vengeful young boy, who forces the older man to make an unthinkable sacrifice. Grounding the film in a well-measured balance of fantasy, tragedy and farce, Lanthimos creates an unsettling modern parable that feels ripped from the pages of a biblical text. It’s a strange film that holds a powerful, provocative energy.
9. Saint Maud (Rose Glass, 2020)
A quiet character study with a loud, and brutal excavation of faith, the tale of Saint Maud, is the debut film from British filmmaker Rose Glass, an incredible entrance into the landscape of cinema that will leave you stunned in pensive reflection.
The central figure of Rose Glass’ biting film, Maud (Morfydd Clark) is a fragile skeleton and a pious nurse, God’s lonely woman, carrying out her medical duties whilst ‘saving souls’ in the process. Once she is assigned to her new patient Amanda (Jennifer Ehle) things start to change for the worse, however. “You must be the loneliest girl I’ve ever seen” she utters to Maud, with loneliness permeating from the very root of the film, asking how an individual is supposed to identify with a world that fails to reciprocate any of your values. It’s a brutal but also heartbreaking contemporary horror classic.
8. The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015)
Having only directed two feature films, following a trio of short film projects, it’s truly impressive to acknowledge how much of a following that filmmaker Robert Eggers has gained following 2015s The Witch and The Lighthouse starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson.
Whilst The Lighthouse is certainly a modern great, it was The Witch that had the more considerable impact on contemporary cinema, particularly for the horror genre. Bringing traditional folk-horror to the mainstream, Robert Eggers’ The Witch is a dreaded countryside fairy-tale, perpetuating solitary paranoia in 1630s New England.
Where folk-tales of witches were once shot in muddy, cheap grain, Eggers adopts a sharp resolution with fantastic cinematography making use of the limitations of natural light. Dreadful in the best sense of the word.
7. Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018)
A game-changer when it comes to the contemporary horror genre, Ari Aster is another director with a slim filmography, but for whom a generous amount of praise is laden on. 2018s Hereditary brought brains to the classic horror tale, with the story itself not too extraordinary, but the execution, revolutionary.
Horrifically hopeless, dread is built upon within an intense hotbed of guilt, envy and regret with help from fantastic performances across the board, specifically from Toni Collette. That car scene is, as a single entity, an example of horror at its very best. Aster’s follow-up Midsommar would cement his prominence in the contemporary horror genre, lacing his bleak narratives with strong subtextual emotion.
6. The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)
Slowly rising the ranks of the entertainment industry, Sean Baker has earned his salt in cinema, rewarded by his current status as one of the most compassionate and intuitive filmmakers working today. Crafting organic, sensitive stories that are not afraid to tackle contentious topics Baker’s The Florida Project is his finest film to date.
Capturing the vibrant, saturated colour of the Florida heat, the film follows the life of a six-year-old named Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) who causes mischief in the local area whilst her mother has trouble looking after her. Set just outside the white walls of Walt Disney World, Baker creates a world in limbo for the young protagonist, caught between the realities of poverty and the fantasies of one of the world’s biggest businesses just next door. It’s a captivating journey.
5. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, 2017)
A consistent theme with the films of A24 is their ability to either discover or elevate voices that would otherwise go unheard, and although Greta Gerwig was certainly finding success with screenplays for Frances Ha and Mistress America, it wasn’t until 2017s Lady Bird that she was truly recognised.
Gerwig’s Lady Bird, is one of the greatest contemporary coming-of-age tales, following the artistic ‘Ladybird’ and her navigation through the end of high school in Sacramento, California. Delicate relationships form a heartbreaking tale of the adolescent transition, in this palpable character-study examining a parental relationship during such a time of change. Such a sensitive film would allow Gerwig to go on to adapt the classic American novel Little Women in 2019 which was too met with overwhelming critical acclaim.
4. Amy (Asif Kapadia, 2015)
Recently remembering the tenth anniversary of the tragic loss of Amy Winehouse, Asif Kapadia’s touching account of the life of the singer is an exemplary piece of filmmaking and the definitive text that sensitively breaks down the life of an icon.
A tragedy on the saddest of scales, Winehouse’s downfall is well known, though Kapadia rightly prefers to focus on her lesser-known uprising, the story of a humble singer finding success from the most unlikely beginnings. Her story is heartbreaking as it spirals out of control, though this is never sensationalised, her tale bookended with grace and affection. Kapadia’s film makes up a trilogy of documentaries that each focus on an enigmatic icon in culture, joining 2010s Senna and 2019s Diego Maradona.
3. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)
For clarity, we consider the top three films in this list to be masterpieces in their own right with A24 having produced and distributed a handful of the very finest films of modern times. Creating a coming-of-age film exploring themes of identity, sexuality and physical abuse in the youth of the Moonlight’s main character, Barry Jenkins’ masterpiece certainly ranks in the highest echelons of modern filmmaking.
Met by critical acclaim upon release, the project won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and, for Mahershala Ali, Best Supporting Actor—a victory which subsequently made him the first Muslim to win an Oscar for acting. Pioneering in every sense, Moonlight became the first film with an all-black cast, the first LGBTQ-related film to win Best Picture and, while they’re breaking records, Joi McMillon became the first black woman to be nominated for an editing Oscar.
Though, eclipsing the bevvy of golden statuettes was Moonlight’s immoveable storytelling capabilities, chronicling a heartbreaking tale of love and psychological torment.
2. Uncut Gems (Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie, 2019)
With wild, frenzied electricity Josh and Benny Safdie present a New York bustling with fury and excitement in this 21st-century thriller masterpiece. Together with 2017s frenetic Good Time, the Safdie brothers have solidified themselves as icons of contemporary cinema.
Stalking the movements of Adam Sandler’s scatty Howard Ratner, a jeweller with mounting debts to pay as he risks his life and finances to stay afloat, Uncut Gems pierces the retinas with an adrenaline rush born from the streets of New York. An astonishing kinetic vitality fuels this romp around America’s busiest city, where directors Josh and Benny Safdie perfectly capture the city’s look and feel, all whilst sculpting characters that feel as if they’ve just walked off Diamond Jewelry Way. Adam Sandler is an eccentric American living on a constant knife-edge and loving every minute of it.
1. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013)
A seminal piece of filmmaking, Jonathan Glazer’s strange cinematic journey is a cornerstone of contemporary cinema, merging inconceivable visuals to form a very human story from the point of view of a curious alien life form.
Part sci-fi drama, part experimental horror, Glazer’s Under the Skin is a marvel of terror and bewilderment. The film follows the apparent birth of a seductive alien, played by Scarlett Johansson, as she stalks the streets of Glasgow searching for both prey and purpose.
What follows is a spellbinding audiovisual assault on the senses, a truly unique and inexplicably terrifying account of an alien invasion. This visually arresting masterpiece is an experience impossible to convey, inhabiting a space, not unlike Johansson’s mystical lair in the film. A dark, cosmic, ethereal piece of cinema, so good that it has instantly elevated both Jonathan Glazer and composer Mica Levi to the dizzying heights of cinematic acclaim.